TBR News September 7, 2018

Sep 07 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8 

Washington, D.C. September 7, 2018:”At times, published official news reporting sounds like a script for a Disney comedy. We now read that two alleged ‘Russian intelligence’ persons were responsible for the fictional nerve gas attack on a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter. Shock and horror! And did these evil men,no doubt personal friends of Putin, also gas the dumpster diver and his shack-up later? British intelligence, or at least they call themselves that, is firmly in the pocket of the CIA and this nonsense story is typical of the Langley crowd. If the Russians wanted to kill their former spy, the CIA scenario writers seem to have overlooked the fact that the agent, convicted of treasonable actions, had been incarcerated in a Russian jail. It would have been much easier to remove him while he was in Russia and not sitting on a park bench in England. And no one yet has connected the welfare pair that also were poisoned with the evil Russians. And another comic scenario is the very recent one about the wonderful President Trump warning the Syrians not to use poison gas in their projected attack on terrorists. No one has ever used poison gas and this seems to be a fixation with Trump. He also seems to be determined to have a Republican Congress appoint him as Emperor-for-Life It is truly amazing the amount of self-deception is engendered in official Washington.”


The Table of Contents

  • Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 16
  • Point, Counter-point
  • Dear Anonymous Trump Official, There Is No Redemption in Your Cowardly Op-Ed
  • Twitter permanently bans Alex Jones and Infowars
  • Michael Moore compares Trump to Hitler in new documentary
  • The teacher revolt reshaping US politics
  • Next stop in Trump’s trade crusade: Japan
  • ‘It’s a no-go’: Trump won’t answer Mueller’s obstruction questions, Giuliani says
  • Iran, Russia and Turkey seek to stave off Idlib offensive
  • Syria war: Russia rejects Turkey’s calls for Idlib truce
  • Lebanese military warns Israel against oil exploration on borders
  • US govt blocks info release on thousands of kittens experimented & killed at Maryland lab – lawsuit



Donald Trump has said 2291 false things as U.S. president: No. 16 August 8, 2018

by Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief

The Toronto Star, Canada

The Star is keeping track of every false claim U.S. President Donald Trump has made since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. Why? Historians say there has never been such a constant liar in the Oval Office. We think dishonesty should be challenged. We think inaccurate information should be corrected

If Trump is a serial liar, why call this a list of “false claims,” not lies? You can read our detailed explanation here. The short answer is that we can’t be sure that each and every one was intentional. In some cases, he may have been confused or ignorant. What we know, objectively, is that he was not teling the truth.

Last updated: Aug 8, 2018


  • Jun 15, 2017

“Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: There is no evidence that Hillary Clinton “had” husband Bill Clinton meet with Attorney General Loretta Lynch at an airport in June 2016; Hillary Clinton was not at the airport when Bill Clinton decided to walk over to Lynch’s plane. (We’ll let Trump’s other two points slide, since they contain truth, but for the sake of context: Hillary Clinton did not destroy any phones herself — an aide did — and she did not literally “bleach” emails, as Trump has long said; her team used standard software called BleachBit to delete some.)


  • Jun 18, 2017

“The new Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in the 2016 Election, just out with a Trump 50% Approval Rating. That’s higher than O’s #’s!”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Barack Obama — “O” — had a higher approval rating at this point in his first year than Trump does now, even in the Republican-leaning Rasmussen poll that gives him a better approval rating than any other poll. Trump achieved his 50 per cent Rasmussen rating on June 16; on the same date in 2009, Rasmussen showed Obama at 56 per cent. (Trump’s Rasmussen approval rating promptly fell back below 50 per cent.) For the same of context: Obama’s advantage over Trump is even more pronounced in other polls. In Gallup, for example, Obama was at 57 per cent or higher during that week in June 2009; Trump was around 38 per cent.

Trump has repeated this claim 5 times


  • Jun 16, 2017

I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did not tell Trump to fire FBI director James Comey. At Trump’s request, he wrote a letter outlining his concerns with Comey’s handling of the 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but that letter did not recommend a termination, and Rosenstein has told senators that he never did so. (Further, for the sake of context, Trump has said publicly that he was going to fire Comey no matter what Rosenstein and others recommended to him.)


“That was the day I came down with Melania on the escalator at Trump Tower. That’s tomorrow. So it’s exactly tomorrow — two years since we announced.”

Source: Speech on Cuba policy

in fact: As he does with regularity, Trump got a date wrong. The anniversary of his presidential announcement speech, which he delivered on June 16, 2015, was the very day he gave this Cuba address — not the next day.


“Effective immediately, I am cancelling the previous administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.”

Source: Speech on Cuba policy

in fact: Trump made some changes to Cuba policy, but he did not cancel Obama’s Cuba deal; the Associated Press noted that he preserved “most of the important elements.” Trump’s policy, the AP wrote, “keeps a U.S. Embassy open and allows U.S. airlines and cruise ships to continue service to Cuba. Cuban-Americans can still send money to relatives and can still travel to the island without restriction. U.S. farmers can continue selling their crops to the Cuban government. The policy also allows Americans to continue patronizing state-run hotels and other businesses that are not directly linked with Cuba’s military and state-security services.”



  • Jun 19, 2017

“He (Jon Ossoff) wants to raise taxes and kill healthcare.”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the special election in Georgia’s 6th District, opposes tax increases on individuals, even the wealthy, and supports tax cuts for small businesses. He wants to kill Trump’s health-care plan, which is not the same as wanting to kill health-care.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times


“My administration has already taken very historic steps to modernize critical IT systems and make government more transparent. As an example, you’re seeing what we’re doing with the airports, with all of the billions and billions of dollars that have been spent on planes flying all in the wrong directions — we’re getting a change.”

Source: Speech to American Technology Council

in fact: Trump can fairly argue that billions have been inefficiently spent on an attempt to upgrade the antiquated U.S. air traffic control system, but this money hasn’t sent planes flying in the wrong directions.


“Their ObamaCare is dead…”

Source: Twitter

in fact: We allow Trump rhetorical license to call Obamacare “collapsing” and even “exploding,” though experts say neither is true. But it is plainly false to say the law is “dead.” While its marketplaces have problems, they are still functioning and providing insurance to millions; so is its Medicaid expansion.

Trump has repeated this claim 33 times


  • Jun 20, 2017

“Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level…”

Source: Twitter

in fact: Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the special election in Georgia’s 6th District, opposes tax increases on individuals, even the wealthy, and supports tax cuts for small businesses.

Trump has repeated this claim 2 times


Point, Counter-point

September 7, 2018

by Christian Jürs


  • President Trump was jobbed into his office with the full cooperation of Russian intelligence and the social medium Facebook.
  • The Russians own Wikileaks entirely and released the damning, and authentic, “Podesta papers” concurrent with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This did damage to her campaign and was a major contributory factor to her narrow defeat and Trump’s election.
  • Trump is not an honest man by any stretch of imagination.
  • Trump has constantly engaged in bribing and manipulations and does this through second parties such as Cohen his former lawyer or Manafort, his campaign manager during the election.
  • Trump and his entourage have made a number of trips to Russia (I have a listing of all of these along with Russian personages he was in contact with), seeking financing and permission to build luxury hotels in that country
  • Trump’s actions, as President, are deliberate efforts to alienate both the putative allies of the US such as Germany, France, Canada and, to a lesser degree, Mexico.
  • Trump has deliberately launched pointless, and destructive, attacks against Mexican and Muslim immigrants, as well as Canadian and German imports. All this has done is to create a highly negative image of his persona primarily and secondarily, the global image of the United States.
  • Trump’s tariffs, and threats of tariffs, have engendered counter-tariffs that will, when implemented, create serious economic problems for American businessmen and, eventually, the public.
  • Trump’s foolish support of the Israeli far right has done, and is doing, serious damage to the US image in the Middle East. It should be noted that Russian influence in the Shiite areas of the Middle East, is growing. Also note that Iran, and parts of Iraq, both Shiite, have extensive oil reserves and that Saudi Arabia, a Sunni state, once America’s primary source of badly-need oil, is running dry.
  • Ergo, the Middle East areas where Russia is having growing influence have oil and if Russia sets itself up as major oil merchandizing source, this will give them tremendous economic leverage vis a vis the United States which is the world’s largest consumer of oil and its by products.
  • By alienating America’s allies and disrupting that country’s social structure, Trump benefits only Russia and its interests.
  • The concept of Trump taking bribes from the Russians (or the PRC) is completely understandable if one applies the concept of Occam’s Razor to the tumult and disruption he is deliberately causing both domestically and in foreign areas.
  • If he is caught at this, and I understand the FBI was deeply interested in his Russian connections long before he ran for President, either we will have to deal with another Dallas or Trump will suffer a fatal heart attack. Vice-President Pence, a devout Christian, would then have to be told to mind his manners or suffer similar terminal problems.
  • Trump is aware of the FBI investigation, aware of what they can find, and probably have already uncovered, so he fired the head of the FBI and even now, according to a very reliable source, is determined to replace the FBI with the cooperative CIA (their former head, Pompeo, is now Secretary of State) as the sole foreign and domestic intelligence agency. He, and his handlers, want to nip any FBI revelations in the bud so that Trump can continue on his course of castrating the United States as a global power.
  • It is quite evident that Trump is unbalanced to a dangerous degree and that even his senior staff view him as both dangerous and totally unpredictable. The problem that arises from the strong and growing opposition to Trump is the polarization of the voter base in the United States and very probable extreme public distuptions.



Dear Anonymous Trump Official, There Is No Redemption in Your Cowardly Op-Ed

September 6, 2018

by Mehdi Hasan

The Intercept

Dear Anonymous Trump Official,

You claim, on the opinion pages of the “failing” New York Times no less, that senior officials working for the president of the United States “are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

“I would know,” you add dramatically. “I am one of them.”

Sorry, what was the point of this particular piece? And what is it that you want from the rest of us? A thank-you card? A round of applause? The nation’s undying gratitude?

Screw. You.

There is no redemption; no exoneration for you or your colleagues inside this shit-show of an administration. You think an op-ed in the paper of record is going to cut it? Gimme a break. You cannot write an article admitting to the president’s “anti-democratic” impulses while also saying you want his administration “to succeed.” You cannot publish a 965-word piece excoriating Donald Trump’s “worst inclinations” while omitting any and all references to his racism, bigotry, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and white nationalism.

You did find space, however, to heap praise on yourself and your fellow officials. “Unsung heroes.” “Adults in the room.” “Quiet resistance.” “Steady state.”

Are you kidding me? Where were your “unsung heroes” when this administration was snatching kids from their parents and locking them in cages? Drugging them and denying them drinking water?

Where were your “adults in the room” when this administration left 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico to die because, apparently, it is an island “surrounded by water, big water, ocean water”? Where were they when the president was denying that Hurricane Maria was a “real catastrophe” and lobbing paper towels at the survivors?

Where was your “quiet resistance” when the president was extolling far-right racists as “very fine people” and blaming the violence in Charlottesville on “both sides”? How “quiet” were you when he later disowned his half-hearted and belated denunciation of the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups” as “the biggest fucking mistake I’ve made”?

Where was your “steady state” when the president fired the director of the FBI because, he told NBC News, “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story”? Or when he sacked Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Sally Yates, the acting attorney general? Or when he tweeted, earlier this week, that Attorney General Jeff Sessions shouldn’t have indicted two Republican allies of his over alleged financial crimes?

The reality is that you and your fellow officials are enablers of Trump; you are his protectors and defenders. You say it yourself. Why were there only “whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment,” which provides for the cabinet to remove the president from office if he is unable to do the job? Why not invoke it and let Mike Pence take over? (Are you, by the way, Mike Pence?)

If as you claim — and we all agree! — that the president you serve “continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic” with “misguided impulses,” then how can you advocate for anything other than his swift removal from office?

Your defense is that “no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.” Seriously? You don’t agree with former Secretary of State John Kerry that we’re already in the midst of “a genuine constitutional crisis,” given your own op-ed outlining his “erratic behavior” and “reckless decisions” and Bob Woodward’s new book describing “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” at the center of the Trump White House?

You are keen to remind the liberal readers of the New York Times that yours “is not the popular ‘resistance’ of the left” and that you believe this administration’s policies have “already made America safer and more prosperous.” You cite “historic tax reform” and “effective deregulation” as the supposed “bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture.” But by tax reform, do you mean the Trump tax cuts that give the richest 1 percent of Americans almost half of the benefits? And by deregulation, do you mean the rescinding of Obama-era protections for the oceans; the lifting of controls on toxic air pollution; and the green light to Wall Street to once again cause havoc in the financial markets?

What is it, then, that you object to? Well, it seems, your biggest concern is “not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency,” but how Americans have “sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.”

You’re joking, right? The widespread dishonesty, the rampant corruption, the brazen racism, the growing authoritarianism, the accusations of collusion — none of that tops your list of Trumpian abuses and infractions? But the “civility” of our discourse does? Fuck civility.

Also, what did you think would happen when you signed up to work for a reality TV star who was accused of sexual assault by more than a dozen women, and of rape by his first wife? Who stiffed hundreds of contractors, ripped off Trump University students, cheated on his third wife just months after she gave birth, and cut off health care coverage to his own nephew’s sick baby in a fit of rage?

You knew all of this and yet you still chose to work for him at the highest level of government. You now acknowledge that “the root of the problem is the president’s amorality.” But how about your own amorality? I hate to agree with your boss, but you are “gutless.” You’re a shameless coward, a cynical opportunist.

Don’t hide behind anonymity. Don’t pretend that you have “gone to great lengths” to restrain Trump and “put country first.”

Tell us your name. Quit your job. Call out this president in public.

Call him out for his bigotry, his mendacity, his sheer mental and emotional unfitness for the office he occupies. Call him out in front of a congressional committee. Or a court of law.

Otherwise, I say again: Screw. You.


Mehdi Hasan


Twitter permanently bans Alex Jones and Infowars

Following similar moves by other tech giants, Twitter will not allow Jones to hold any accounts on the site. Jones’s show Infowars is known for its inflamatory far-right conspiracy theories.

September 7, 2018


Alex Jones, the US far-right conspiracy theorist famously known for describing the Sandy Hook school shooting as a hoax, was banned from Twitter permanently on Thursday. The move comes a day after Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, had appeared before a congressional hearing where Republican lawmakers questioned him over alleged bias against conservative voices on the social platform.

The company made the announcement on its @TwitterSafety account “Today, we permanently suspended @realalexjones and @infowars from Twitter and Periscope.”

The ban follows similar actions taken by Apple, YouTube, and Facebook, who last month took down podcasts and channels from Jones, citing community standards. While Apple and Youtube issued a permanent ban, Facebook banned him for a short period. Twitter also temporarily suspended Jones’s account, which touts 900,000 followers, for a one week period.

‘Abusive behavior’ led to shutdown

The tech giant had resisted calls to ban him completely, but a video Jones posted on Wednesday violated the company’s policy against “abusive behavior,” Twitter said. In the video, Jones is seen berating CNN journalist Oliver Darcy in Washington DC., when he attended the two congressional hearings on social media.

“We took this action based on new reports of Tweets and videos posted yesterday that violate our abusive behavior policy, in addition to the accounts’ past violations,” Twitter said.

“As we continue to increase transparency around our rules and enforcement actions, we wanted to be open about this action, given the broad interest in this case,” the company tweeted.

Twitter said Jones will not be able to create new accounts on platform or take over any existing ones.

Prolific conspiracy theorist

The US NGO Southern Poverty Law Center dubbed Jones “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America.” He has claimed the September 11 attacks were carried out by the US government and has promoted the idea that ethnic minorities are attempting to eradicate the white race.

But arguably his most controversial provocation was claiming the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was staged, using so-called “crisis actors,” as part of a plot against gun rights in the US.

As a result, he has been sued by many of the families, who accuse him of using their suffering to expand his audience. Jones counter-sued them, demanding that they pay his court expenses.


Michael Moore compares Trump to Hitler in new documentary

September 7, 2018

by Nichola Saminather


TORONTO (Reuters) – Filmmaker Michael Moore compares U.S. President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler in his provocative new documentary, “Fahrenheit 11/9” that got its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday to a sold-out audience.

The documentary examines the forces Moore believes contributed to Trump’s election victory in November 2016, drawing parallels with the rise of Hitler in 1930s Germany.

The White House could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

At one point, the film superimposes Trump’s words over videos of Hitler’s rallies, as a historian talks about the rise of strong men to positions of power.

“We explore the question of how the hell we got in this mess and how do we get out of it,” the liberal activist told reporters ahead of the film’s screening.

“He’s (Trump) been around for a long time and we’ve behaved in a certain way for a long time and when you look back now you can see how the road was paved for him,” Moore said.

The new film was a call to action for Americans, said Moore, who won an Oscar in 2003 for his gun violence documentary “Bowling for Columbine.”

“We are in a war to get our country back,” he said. “Anyone who doesn’t understand that is going to be sorely disappointed in the results of what’s about to happen in the next few years with Donald Trump.”

“Fahrenheit 11/9” takes its title from the early hours of Nov. 9, 2016, when Republican candidate Trump was officially declared the victor over Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.

In the film, Moore assigns blame for Trump’s victory to widespread assumptions that Clinton would win, vested interests, and U.S. media that prioritized the big audiences Trump drew to television programming.

The documentary premiered the same week the New York Times printed an anonymous opinion column whose writer described “a quiet resistance” to Trump within his own administration, and advance excerpts of a new book by journalist Bob Woodward portrayed Trump as prone to impulsive decision-making.

It follows Moore’s one-man show on Broadway last year in which he used his satirical blend of humor to target Trump and encourage liberals to turn resentment at the Republican political agenda into resistance.

The film also touched on topics ranging from mass shootings in American schools to the contamination of water in Moore’s Flint, Michigan hometown.

At the end of the Toronto premiere, Moore emerged on stage, accompanied by some of the Florida school students who led nationwide protests demanding stricter gun laws.

“Fahrenheit 11/9” will open in movie theaters across the U.S. on Sept. 21.

Reporting by Nichola Saminather and Rollo Ross; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Clarence Fernandez


The teacher revolt reshaping US politics

After teacher strikes in the beginning of the year failed to have the desired impact, educators are taking on the Republican party

September 7, 2018

by Chris McGreal in Ada, Oklahoma

The Guardian

Ronny Johns is an accidental Republican.

The Oklahoma school principal only signed up with the party a few years back so that his vote might mean something in a state where the Republican party overwhelms politics. At the time, he was keen to vote against a state school superintendent he regarded as a disaster.

Johns stuck with the Republicans even as they used their grip on Oklahoma’s legislature to bind the state ever tighter in the ideological straitjacket of tax and spending cuts at the cost of public services, not least education. He remained with the party as the number of teachers at his school plummeted, class sizes surged, and diminished pay forced his staff to find second jobs. Even as students were reduced to studying from battered text books older than themselves and some Oklahoma schools opened just four days a week.

Now, after three decades in the classroom, Johns has had enough – and he is not alone. The principal of Ada junior high school, in a small city in the south-east of the state, is among a surge of teachers who stepped out of the classroom and into politics on the back of a wave of school strikes across some of the most Republican states. Johns won his first ever primary with a campaign focused on funding for schools and is expected to win election to the Oklahoma legislature in November in what he sees as a backlash against years of his own party’s ideology.

“People have seen what all the tax cuts can do to not only education but all of our state agencies whether it’s mental health, roads and bridges, prisons,” said Johns. “I think Oklahoma is moving away from the hardline conservative Republican to something more moderate. They see that the promises that were made have not delivered.”

The teachers strikes began in a corner of West Virginia in February to demand a pay increase and a better health care plan, and swiftly spread across the state with a two-week walkout. The protests fired up educators in other states often struggling with pay so low they held two jobs but also angered by falling school budgets. Teachers in Oklahoma followed with a nine-day strike. Educators in Arizona walked out for a week and those in Colorado for two.

The teachers won some of what they wanted. In West Virginia, educators got a 5% pay increase but not improved healthcare. Arizona’s teachers secured a significant pay rise and increased school funding.

But the wider impact of the protests has been on politics, not least within the Republican party. The strikes radicalised some teachers, demonstrating not only their influence but the public support they command, and prompted a surge in educators running for office. Hundreds are on ballots competing for state and local offices, and teachers have already claimed important political scalps. A math teacher in Kentucky ousted the Republican majority leader in the state legislature, and rising star of the party, from his seat in the GOP primary in May.

The strike also exposed growing public weariness in some of the most conservative states with years of tax and public spending cuts that have failed to deliver the promised prosperity.

Nowhere has the existing political order been rocked more than in Oklahoma where even the threat of a strike by teachers turned Republican policy on its head. Public education is a major employer in many smaller, less prosperous communities and the GOP leadership in the legislature recognised whose side voters were on. The politicians swiftly broke with years of cuts to impose the first tax rise since 1990.

They increased duty on cigarettes, gas drilling and internet purchases to fund a $6,100 pay rise for public school teachers. But educators walked out for nine days anyway to demand $200m to fund schools. That set up a confrontation between legislators, who thought the teachers were not sufficiently grateful for the political leap they took in raising taxes, and educators who thought the politicians didn’t get that the strike was about more than pay.

Years of school budget cuts have resulted in Oklahoma spending 25% less on educating each student than a decade ago, resulting in ever-bigger class sizes and fewer resources as well as teachers leaving for better pay in neighboring states.

The state governor, Mary Fallin, likened the striking teachers to “a teenage kid that wants a better car”. One Republican state representative, Jeff Coody, riled teachers by denouncing their strike as “akin to extortion”. Joan Gabelmann, an assistant principal in Lawton public schools, was so incensed she ran for the Democratic party nomination for Coody’s district and won it against another educator. Gabelmann said that Coody’s reaction was typical of the reception teachers received when they marched on the state Capitol in support of increased school funding.

“Ninety percent of the politicians were extremely disrespectful and did not want to hear our voices,” she said. “It angered a lot of people and it caused a lot of disillusionment. The misconception was the teachers got their raise so what’s your problem? It’s not about a raise. It’s about funding education for our kids.”

Carri Hicks, a math and science teacher who earned $29,000 a year working full time and is running for a state senate seat in Oklahoma City, was angered by a meeting with a Republican senator on the education committee.

“He told me I was lying when I shared with him my class sizes. I made the decision that if they weren’t going to listen to teachers and understand the complicated issues that we’re tackling in the classroom right now, then we’ve got to get somebody to serve who actually understands what it feels like to be in those overcrowded, underfunded classrooms to make any kind of movement on this issue,” she said.

State representative Mike Ritze’s vote against the pay increase prompted a challenge from four teachers. Janice Graham, who spent 35 years as a school psychologist and educator, was so offended by Ritze’s attitude that she ventured into politics for the first time and won the Democratic nomination to run for his seat in November.

“What happened in the walkout showed to me how little we are represented. They did not listen. Mike Ritze was very rude to educators. Shame on us for letting him go unopposed all these years. None of us had our eyes on it. The teacher walkout just turned the lights on. It was, ‘Look at these people’. If they’re not representing teachers, who else aren’t they representing?” said Graham. “I’m 58. I’m a smart woman. I’m a strong woman. I thought, I’m going to put my hat in.”

Johns – who also joined the strike because he is weary of seeing teachers at his school leave for better-paid jobs in neighboring Texas or Arkansas, and of class sizes that jumped from about 15 students to 25 – said he was disturbed by the response of some Republican politicians to the teachers.

“It really surprised me when I saw how some of the legislators were reacting to some of the teachers. It wasn’t how they should have been received,” he said.

The strike, or the response of many Republican legislators to it, prompted Oklahoma’s teachers to line up in record numbers to run for office and they had the public behind them. Tens of thousands of people turned out to back the educators at the Capitol. Teachers were fair game for Republican politicians for years.

The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, thought it good politics to respond to teacher complaints about underfunded schools by shouting at them to do their jobs, and to tell a teachers union it deserved “a punch in the face”.

But that was no longer true in Oklahoma. Of the 19 Republicans in the state legislature who voted against the tax increases to fund teacher pay raises, eight lost their primary races weeks later. Education figured large in their downfall even if it was not the only factor. Seven others decided not to run for reelection leaving only four of the original 19 on the ballot in November. Coody and Ritz were among those who were voted out.

Hicks’ Republican opponent, state Senator Ervin Yen, also fell in the primary.

“Teachers have got smart about their politics and say, ‘You’ve been lying to us. Yes, you supported the teacher raise but you didn’t vote for the revenue to pay for schools so we’re not going to take your empty promises any longer. We’re voting you out’. I think it’s awoken this sleeping giant. I just hope that the fire in our bellies carries through to the polls,” said Hicks.

When the teachers walked out in Oklahoma, they found ready support from those voters weary of the Republicans’ failed economic experiment. Years of tax and service cuts in the state intensified after the Tea Party wave in 2010 and the election of Fallin as governor.

Voters were sold a promise that lower taxes would prompt a boom in business and prosperity. Not only did it fail to materialise but a collapse in the price of oil, which accounts for a good part of the state’s revenues, plunged Oklahoma into a billion dollar budget deficit.

That did not stop Fallin continuing to cut hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes for high earners and businesses even as Oklahoma highway patrol officers were ordered to limit the number of miles they drove in order to save fuel, rural clinics were driven out of business by Medicaid cuts, and public infrastructure crumbled.

“Everybody thinks that Oklahoma is a traditionally red state but there’s a lot of people being awakened,” said Jacobi Crowley, a 26 year-old African American educator and church minister, who is expected to become the youngest state senator in the country for a district around Lawton in the southwestern Oklahoma.

“People have been asleep on issues and things that have been affecting the state of Oklahoma like education, criminal justice reform, economic diversity – all those big topics. It’s not that they have not been interested in it. They have been focused on their family, focused on their job. Now that people are able to sit down and really hear what’s going on and see the numbers, you’re seeing a lot more people saying, ‘How did we get here? How can we fix this?’

“There’s an understanding that if you’re not involved then there are consequences.” Crowley earns $32,000 a year teaching and holds down a second job selling advertising to make ends meet.

Gabelmann said the teachers strike finally focused public attention on what many parents have known for years as the bills for basic classroom supplies, sometimes running into the hundreds of dollars, arrived at the beginning of each school term.

“Schools have been strip mined of our money. That trickle down economics, we’re a poster child for what can happen when that’s allowed to occur through voter apathy,” she said. “It’s a good thing we have an election in November. My heart just sings. It’s sad on one side but on the other we have voters that are more aware of the situation, and because of the teachers situation they’re now also more aware with what’s going on in health care and services. We don’t need these grey haired old men making decisions about our lives. I do think people are paying attention more so than they have before in our state.”

Asked if he is in favor of reversing years of Republican policy and imposing tax increases, Johns hesitates for just a moment and then says he is. Tax cuts, he said, have proved a false investment.

“I know what we need. I know what our students need. Education affects everything. You want to get incarceration rates down, educate. You want to get drug abuse down, educate. You want to get more people off of welfare, educate. Teen pregnancies? Education. A more employable workforce, education,” he said.

Increasing taxes is no longer the taboo it once was even in some more conservative circles. In January, a coalition of business and civic leaders, Step Up Oklahoma, called for higher taxes on fuel, tobacco and gambling to deal with the budget deficit and fund public services. One sign of the dramatic turnaround in attitudes was oil company executives backing an increase in tax on production.

But any attempt to move the state toward higher taxing and spending has to overcome a Republican-engineered ballot measure from the 1990s which requires a 75% vote in favor by the legislature to increase taxes. Moving broader but just as ideological policy may prove easier. Both Johns and Democratic teachers on the ballot want to see a shift away from the de facto privatization of education and the relegation of public schools to a second-class service for the poor and marginalized.

Hicks, who has a child with a disability, feels it personally because she said her son would almost certainly be rejected by private schools even if she could afford one.

“I have seen a lot of really gross things up close that give me pause and make me wonder if there’s an intentional attack on public education right now in that they’re trying to defund it to a point where parents don’t see it as a viable option for their students and therefore seek out for-profit charters or for-profit private entities to educate their children.

“It’s not right,” said Hicks. “We see that especially in the south side of Oklahoma City. It’s a large immigrant population and overcrowding on the south side is probably the worst in the state. To me it seems very intentional. We’re not being equitable with our funding and so I just know that having a teacher voice inside our state government will ensure that we at least can stop some of the things that I think have them put into motion over the last 10 years.”


Next stop in Trump’s trade crusade: Japan

US President Donald Trump remains focused on reducing the American trade deficit, and Japan may be the next target. An American newspaper cites the president as saying he wants to make Tokyo “pay” for its surpluses.

September 7, 2018


China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico — US President Donald Trump is waging his trade war on many fronts, with the likelihood of Japan becoming the next battleground rising, according to US business daily The Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

In a column written by WSJ Assistant Editor James Freeman on Thursday, the author said that Trump saw a “problem” with Japan’s $68.8 billion (€59.1 billion) trade surplus in 2017, which is not expected to come down significantly this year.

Freeman wrote he had a conversation with the president in which Trump had thanked him for his positive comments on the US economy, and was generally praising America’s “good relations” with the Asian country.

“Of course that will end as soon as I tell them how much they have to pay,” Freeman then cited Trump as saying.

Upon the news, the Japanese currency immediately firmed in late New York trading on speculation that Trump may soon target the world’s third-largest economy in its drive to lower the American trade deficits with key partners.

Trump’s remarks come as a bit of a surprise because he was previously seen as maintaining a cordial personal relationship with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, fostered during numerous meetings and rounds of golf.

China remains prime target

The American trade gap with Japan is still massive, but has narrowed from a record of $73.3 billion five years ago. In the year to the end of July it fell further to about $40 billion.

By comparison, the US trade deficit with China was $36.8 billion just for the month of July this year, hitting an all-time high on an increase of 10 percent. With the European Union, the gap even widened 50 percent month-on-month to $17.6 billion.

Trump has had Beijing in his crosshairs ever since he took office, and has applied increasing pressure to try to convince the country to change its policies, allow more imports and reduce the $335 billion annual trade deficit.

Washington looks set to unleash another wave of punitive tariffs against China as a deadline on public comment on taxes to the tune of $200 billion expired on Thursday. That would take the total goods targeted to $250 billion out of about $500 billion worth of imports from China each year.

China’s Commerce Ministry has already announced it is readying countermeasures, including tariffs on $60 billion of US imports. China so far has retaliated dollar-for-dollar with tariffs of its own on US goods, but since it imports less than $200 billion a year from the US, it has run out of room to match Trump’s tariffs.

Executive ire

Meanwhile, American corporations are getting increasingly worried about Trump’s crusade on trade, and demanding exclusions from the tariffs.

On Friday, US technology companies Cisco, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Juniper Networks issued a last-ditch appeal to the Trump administration to protect key products from being included on a list of the new China tariffs.

In a joint letter to US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, the four companies claimed that tariffs on networking equipment would increase prices for consumers and delay investments.

“If USTR were to impose a 10-25 percent additional duty, it would cause broad, disproportionate economic harm to US interests, including our companies and US workers, our customers, US consumers, and broader US economic and strategic priorities,” the letter said.

The list of products subject to higher tariffs includes a wide range of components and finished products that are key to cloud computing data centers. Prices are set to rise for servers, routers and switches, which handle data processing and communication. Other components expected to be hit are motherboards and memory modules, which are imported by big US hardware makers, as well as cloud computing companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, which assemble machines for their own data centers.

The executives’ joint statement marks a departure from the approach taken by most large US companies, few of whose leaders have spoken out directly against the administration’s trade policy despite harboring concerns about its impact on their businesses.


‘It’s a no-go’: Trump won’t answer Mueller’s obstruction questions, Giuliani says

Giuliani suggests Trump will answer questions on Russia in writing but says ‘there will be no questions at all on obstruction’

September 7, 2018


Donald Trump will not answer federal investigators’ questions, in writing or in person, about whether he tried to block the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, his lawyer has said.

Trump lawyer and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani said questions about obstruction of justice were a “no-go.”

Giuliani’s statement, made in an interview with the Associated Press, was the most definitive rejection yet of special counsel Robert Mueller’s efforts to interview the president about any efforts to obstruct the investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and Russians.

It signals the Trump’s lawyers are committed to protecting the president from answering questions about decisions the president took in office.

It’s unclear if Giuliani’s public position has been endorsed by Trump, who has said he wants to answer questions under oath. Negotiations about the scope and format of an interview are still continuing. If the legal team holds its stance, it could force Mueller to try to subpoena the president, likely triggering a standoff that would lead to the supreme court

Mueller’s office has previously sought to interview the president about the obstruction issue, including his firing last year of former FBI director James Comey and his public attacks on Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. Trump’s legal team has argued that the president has the power to hire and fire appointees and the special counsel does not have the authority to ask him to explain those decisions.

Giuliani said Thursday the team was steadfast in that position.

“That’s a no-go. That is not going to happen,” Giuliani said. “There will be no questions at all on obstruction.”

In a letter last week, Mueller’s team said it would accept written responses from Trump on questions related to Russian election interference. Giuliani suggested Thursday that Trump’s lawyers had agreed to those terms but wanted to prohibit investigators from asking follow-up questions.

“It would be in written form and if you want to follow up on our answers, justify it. Show us why you didn’t get there the first time,” Giuliani said.

He said he was not categorically ruling out answering a second round of questions but the entire matter of whether there would be follow-up inquiries should be settled before the president answers anything at all.

“We aren’t going to let them spring it on us,” said Giuliani, who has served as lawyer-spokesman for the president’s personal legal team, using television interviews and public comments as a tactic in the negotiations.

He has repeatedly moved the goalposts on what would be required for a presidential interview and, at times, has been forced to clarify previous statements.

In earlier interviews, Giuliani had suggested some obstruction questions could be allowed if prosecutors show necessity and preview the questions with the defense lawyers.

Trump, in a Fox News interview taped before a Thursday night rally in Montana, was non-committal when asked about a possible Mueller interview.

In the latest letter to the legal team, Mueller’s office didn’t address obstruction questions, indicating investigators would later assess what additional information it needs from the president after receiving a response about the written submissions, according to a person familiar with the document.

The person familiar with the letter spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss the negotiations.

Giuliani’s declaration drew a swift rebuke from Adam Schiff, the highest-ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, who tweeted: “Trump’s legal team never had any intention of allowing him to be interviewed, knowing he is incapable of telling the truth. It’s past time to subpoena the President. No one is above the law.”

Though the president has publicly said he was eager to face questions from Mueller, his lawyers have been far more reluctant to make him available for an interview and have questioned whether Mueller has the right to ask him about actions that he is authorized, under the constitution, to take as president.

Giuliani’s comments came just hours after Trump’s supreme court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, espoused a belief in an expansive view of executive powers and declined to say whether a president can be subpoenaed and forced to testify.

Mueller’s team raised the prospect in March that it could subpoena the president, though this would unquestionably prompt a court fight.

The Supreme Court has never definitively ruled on the question of whether a president can be forced to testify, though the justices did rule in 1974 that Richard Nixon had to produce recordings and documents that had been subpoenaed.

In addition to questions about Comey and Sessions, Mueller has expressed interest in Trump’s role in drafting a statement to The New York Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by his son, Donald Trump Jr, and a Russian lawyer.

Trump Jr took the meeting, emails show, after it was described as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign by providing derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.

Trump has said he knew nothing about the meeting before it happened.

Trump and Giuliani have led an onslaught of attacks on Mueller’s credibility, claiming that the special counsel was biased and that the entire probe was a “witch-hunt.”

Giuliani has also demanded that the probe suspend its activities with the midterm elections approaching, but the former mayor said Thursday he was not certain of Mueller’s intentions.


Iran, Russia and Turkey seek to stave off Idlib offensive

The fate of Idlib province hangs in the balance as Bashar Assad’s regime prepares to retake its control from the rebels. The leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey are meeting in Tehran hoping to avert a major offensive.

September 7, 2018

by Shamil Shams, and  Kersten Knipp


Hundreds of civilians have fled the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib ahead of the Syrian regime’s imminent military action in the rebel’s last major bastion.

The Syrian government has vowed to retake the province, which has been held by the opposition since 2015.

Idlib, which is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaida-affiliated Islamist alliance, is home to roughly 3 million people – around half of them displaced from other parts of Syria.

Aid agencies and human rights groups warned of a major humanitarian crisis should Bashar Assad’s regime launch a military offensive against Idlib’s rebels.

The leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey are holding talks in Tehran on Friday to discuss the situation in Idlib and find ways to avert a possible humanitarian disaster.

Turkey spars with Iran and Russia over Idlib

On Friday afternoon, presidents of Russia and Turkey arrived in Tehran to take part in the conference.

Addressing the summit, Iran’s Hassan Rouhani said achieving peace in Idlib was the “ultimate goal.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin advocated taking joint measures to “stabilize” Syria but also said that “terrorists must be removed from Idlib.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, recalled an agreement with Russia last year to make Idlib a “de-escalation zone” of reduced conflict. The Turkish president condemned Assad for massacring the Syrian people.

“We have hosted millions of Syrians… We don’t want to see blood in Idlib and we must find a reasonable solution to the crisis,” Erdogan said, adding that Iran and Russia should pay heed to Turkey’s concerns.

Ahead of the trilateral summit, Turkish President Erdogan also held one-on-one talks with his Iranian counterpart Rouhani.

Last major rebel bastion

The Syrian government and its allies have already amassed a large number of troops near the province for a decisive assault.

Turkey, which backs some factions of Idlib’s rebels, is against a potential military offensive on Idlib, fearing it could trigger a massive refugee crisis with desperate Syrians attempting to find safety on its territory.

Ankara criticized Russian airstrikes on the province ahead of the Friday summit in Iran.

But for the Syrian government, recapturing Idlib is vital because the strategically important province borders Latakia, an Assad stronghold and home to the biggest Russian airbase in the country.

Samir Salha, a political scientist at Istanbul’s Kocali Universtity, says Idlib is important for all international forces. “Those who will prevail in Idlib will prevail across Syria,” Salha told DW.

Regime backers Iran and Russia have vowed their support to the Syrian regime in regaining control of all rebel-held areas.

Moscow said the Syrian army was preparing to solve the problem of “terrorism” in the rebel stronghold.

“We have killed, we are killing and we will kill terrorists… whether that be in Aleppo, Idlib or other parts of Syria,” said Kremlin spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.

Her Iranian counterpart, Bahram Ghassemi, assured Assad of Iran’s support and willingness to “continue its role as adviser and help” the Idlib campaign.

US trying to cement influence

President Donald Trump has also warned the Syrian regime against committing a “slaughter” in Idlib.

The US wants to maintain its influence in Syria. After tacitly accepting that Assad will remain Syrian president for the foreseeable future, Washington now wants to at least limit Iran’s influence in the country as much as possible.

“The US shares this goal with Saudi Arabia and Israel,” said Turkish expert Salha, adding that this objective, however, puts the US on a collision course with Russia.

Abdel Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of the online Rai al-youm newspaper, believes that if regional and international powers don’t show flexibility on Idlib, the conflict could spread out of Syria.

“The strong presence of US and Russian naval units in both the eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf suggest that the two superpowers are preparing for a regional or even a global confrontation,” Atwan told DW.


Syria war: Russia rejects Turkey’s calls for Idlib truce

September 7, 2018

BBC News

Russian President Vladimir Putin has rejected Turkey’s calls for a truce to prevent a “bloodbath” in Syria’s Idlib.

At a trilateral meeting with Iran and Turkey, Mr Putin said that Russia would continue its fight against “terrorists” in the northern province.

Idlib is the Syrian opposition’s last major stronghold, with almost three million residents.

There are fears that a major Syrian government offensive, backed by Russia and Iran, is about to take place there.

During the meeting in Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also spoke of “fighting terrorism” in the province but said civilians must not be made to suffer.

New air strikes on rebel positions in Idlib were reported on Friday morning.

Earlier, the new US envoy for Syria said there was “evidence” that Syrian government forces were preparing to use chemical weapons.

Why are these countries involved?

Iran, Russia and Turkey have played central roles in the Syrian conflict.

Turkey – which has long backed some rebel groups – fears an all-out assault will trigger another major refugee crisis on its southern border.

Russia and Iran – which have provided vital support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – believe jihadist groups in Idlib must be wiped out.

Russian planes have bombed rebel areas in the north-western region as Syrian government troops mass for the expected offensive.

What was said at the summit?

“Fighting terrorism in Idlib is an unavoidable part of the mission of restoring peace and stability to Syria,” Mr Rouhani told his Russian and Turkish counterparts.

“But this battle must not cause civilians to suffer or lead to a scorched earth policy.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted at the trilateral meeting “the legitimate Syrian government has a right and must eventually take under control of its entire national territory”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the summit that this was the last chance to avert a bloodbath in the province, home to some three million people.

Their joint statement, however, contained no concrete measures on Idlib.

What did the new US envoy for Syria say?

Jim Jeffrey said the anticipated conflict would be a “reckless escalation”.

“I am very sure that we have very, very good grounds to be making these warnings,” Mr Jeffrey said in his first interview since being appointed.

“Any offensive is to us objectionable as a reckless escalation. There is lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared.”

He did not give details of the evidence he was referring to.

Mr Jeffrey said a “major diplomatic initiative” was now needed to end the seven-year civil war.

How Idlib may be changing Trump’s Syria strategy

He said there was “a new commitment” by President Donald Trump to remain involved in Syria until the Islamic State group (IS) was defeated and to ensure that Iranian fighters leave the country.

Mr Jeffrey said President Assad had “no future as a ruler” in Syria, but it was not Washington’s job to oust him. He said the US would work with Russia on a political transition.

What do we know of chemical weapons use?

The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said last week that both the Syrian government and rebels had the ability to make chlorine-based chemical weapons.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied ever using chemical weapons.

Despite the denials, experts from the UN and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have said they are confident government forces were behind an attack involving the nerve agent Sarin on a rebel-held town in southern Idlib in April 2017 that killed more than 80 people.

The US state department warned on Monday that Washington would respond to any new chemical attacks by the Syrian government or its allies.

What is the state of Idlib?

There are believed to be up to 30,000 rebel and jihadist fighters in Idlib.

The UN says the region is home to some 2.9 million people, including a million children.

More than half of the civilians have already been displaced at least once from elsewhere in Syria and have nowhere left to go.

UN officials say as many as 800,000 people could be displaced and that the already high number of people in need of aid could increase dramatically.


Lebanese military warns Israel against oil exploration on borders

September 7, 2018

by Mu Xuequan


BEIRUT  The Lebanese army on Thursday warned Israel against any violation of its sovereignty as the latter reportedly intends to start oil exploration close to the borders.

“The Lebanese army will face any Israeli violation of Lebanon’s rights in implementing the central security council’s decision,” the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) said in a statement.

The statement was released following a meeting between the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Head of Mission and Force Commander Stefano Del Col and a senior delegation from the LAF.

It also came after Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri expressed his worry on Wednesday about Israel’s intention to start oil exploration in July 2019 in the Karish field, which is very close to the Lebanese waters.

Berri also voiced concern over the intention of the French oil and gas giant Total S.A. to postpone its oil exploration in Lebanon’s Block 9, which borders Israel’s maritime zone and contains waters claimed by both sides.

Total was supposed to start operation in 2019 but has postponed it till the spring of 2020, said Lebanon 24, a local news agency.

“This is a very dangerous step,” Berri was quoted as saying.

On December 14, 2017, the Lebanese Council of Ministers approved two exclusive licenses for oil exploration and production in blocks 4 and 9 for a consortium composed of Total S.A, Eni International BV and JSC Novatek.


US govt blocks info release on thousands of kittens experimented & killed at Maryland lab – lawsuit

September 7, 2018


An animal rights group has sued the US Department of Agriculture, claiming it blocked the release of information on a Maryland medical lab that experimented on and euthanized thousands of kittens in past decades.

The lawsuit says the government-funded Animal Parasitic Disease Lab in Beltsville, Maryland, has euthanized thousands of healthy kittens after putting them through experiments related to food-borne illnesses in humans.

Watchdog group White Coat Waste Project wants the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which runs the lab, to end the experiments and disclose all information about the harrowing tests.

They kept this project a secret for virtually 50 years and have been fighting tooth and nail [not] to release details about it. We are not going to let them go dark again,” said Justin Goodman, the White Coat Waste Project’s vice president.

Earlier this year, the non-profit group published a trove of USDA documents saying that around 100 cats were being killed each year at Beltsville. Before being euthanized, the animals are given meat infected with a parasite causing toxoplasmosis – a disease that may lead to birth defects and miscarriages in humans.

Not all kittens become infected with the disease as a result. However, they are still killed instead of being rehomed.

“A total of 2,988 cats have been used in these research efforts that began in 1982,” USDA administrator Chavonda Jacobs-Young wrote in a response to an inquiry from Congress in May, according to the Washington Post.

In the lawsuit, White Coat Waste Project says it filed a request for information to the USDA, asking for it to disclose veterinary records, but this has been unsuccessful to date. “The USDA continues to wrongfully withhold the requested records,” alleges the lawsuit quoted by the Post.

The Beltsville lab came to light in May of this year when Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Michigan) called to end the inhuman practices. “I’m shocked and disturbed that for decades the USDA – the very organization charged with enforcing animal welfare laws – has been unnecessarily killing hundreds of kittens in expensive and inefficient lab experiments,” Bishop said in a statement at the time.

Along with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), he introduced the so-called KITTEN act, which aims to stop experiments on cats.

Bishop said the government research program, which has been funded since the Nixon administration, needs to be “put under the microscope” and that the kittens are essentially used “as disposable test tubes” in harmful tests that “most taxpayers oppose.” He also questioned why the kittens were being killed instead of offered for adoption.




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